Monday, September 30, 2013

Hug an LGBTQ poet today (and tomorrow and the next day)!

Tomorrow kicks off LGBTQ history month! In honor, I want to try to cover some of my favorite LGBTQ poets. While I was doing research for this blog post, I was honestly trying to think of an earnestly heteronormative poet and I honestly couldn't. I guess I can only really think of Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney. Okay, now that I'm really thinking about it, I can put my finger on several. Regardless, I guess my point is that poetry has been a timeless safe space for us queers.

Poets of ambiguous or clearly stated LGBTQ sexualities who I totally dig:

  1. Edna St. Vincent Millay (the poet this blog was titled after)
  2. Oscar Wilde (never read a lot of his poetry, but it's brilliant and I love his stories)
  3. Lord Byron
  4. Elizabeth Bishop (One Art will always be my favorite of her poems)
  5. Emily Dickinson (this one was a shock to me, but is apparently a thing. Susan)
  6. Sappho (Duh)
  7. Georgia Douglas Johnson
  8. Maureen McLane (Syntax is honestly one of the best poems I've read in ten years)
  9. Audre Lorde
  10. Adrienne Rich
  11. Allen Ginsberg
  12. William Shakespeare (obviously)
  13. Marilyn Hacker
  14. Langston Hughes
Please note that I have left out several famous spoken word folks- I think I've already babbled about how I feel about spoken word, slam jam, poetry jams, etc., etc., but I'll leave it simply at this: I characterize spoken word as more as a vein of performance art then a form of poetry. While I admit there is an intersection, it's the difference between a tomato and a peach. 

With respect, this is a fairly sparse, pedantic list. If you're more into post modern poetry, the poets you want to check out from this list are Maureen McLane, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, etc; with the exception of Maureen McLane, these are all fairly canonical poets. There are a plethora of fabulous, current LGBTQ poets and I definitely intend to delve into their work this month. I just wanted to start from my base of knowledge, the original fires of my love.

But don't take my word for it- here are some good articles about LGBTQ poets:

What would your list look like? Who speaks to you? 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Poetry is...

I'm having a great deal of fun reading's 20 Poets on the Meaning of Poetry.

We love to say what things are and what they aren't. It's fun to cage match about definitions- it's a thriving business in politics and art.

Okay, okay, so I'm just writing this post to mull over my reactions and respond. It's just for funzies so let's none of us get our boxers in a twist.

From Carl Sandburg's "Tentative (First Model): Definitions of Poetry":

2. Poetry is an art practised with the terribly plastic material of human language.
Is it really? I think that's bullshit. I think that crafting poetry from the human language* is, on good days, like kneading bread: painfully difficult to get the recipe right, but the words are so warm and pliable! Something you want to sink your knuckles into.  A smell that makes you yearn and your tummy rumble. If writing poetry was as stiff and difficult as working "terrible plastic material" there would be less of us and even less readers. I think that's a line of false humility.

Never mind, I'm not going to finish responding to all of his definitions. I just remembered why I don't like his poetry and my boxers are in a twist.

*because there is only one language we speak, existentialists! 

Meanwhile... quotes that I did love:

"Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful." -Rita Dove

"Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads." -Marianne Moore

"If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that ispoetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?" -Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Two poems

So, last night I wrote two poems that I won't ever publish except for here and I wanted to share. They will probably be cannibalized for parts in the future. Without further ado, poems about absence.

(No Title)

I took notes for a poem about
lavender lads and ladies,
the twilight people who come
from the world of debut mon,
and when I went to source my
new-old words, I found the
articles notably absent.

(Second poem with no title)

In absentia vobus
In the absence of you-
you, curled in a heart
on the worn carpet.

I scrambled through wires
to reschedule our rendezvous
I’m sorry my voice got
caught inside my ribcage

A scattered day of thoughts and words

1.  A vague obsession with the phrase "In Absentia". From Latin, literally translated to mean "in the absence". I looked up, through Google Translate, at least 15 different ways to write in the absence of you (in absentia vobus). I feel like that phrase deserves something better then confident legalese. In Absentia, in absentia, in absentia. Google Translator also says that "in the presence (of you)" is apud vos, but it's been a long time since I took Latin, so I have no idea if that's accurate, nor do I want to pull out my old books and check. Nor am I at home. So, in Google we trust.

There is something haunting about in absentia vobus.

2.  I read this poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson, notable poet during/of the Harlem Renaissance.
The Heart of a Womanby Georgia Douglas Johnson
The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o'er life's turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home. 
The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.
Seriously, that's how you end a fucking poem. Jesus, Mary, & Joseph.

3.  I didn't win the contest I submitted my poems to; I found out today. I didn't expect to and now I have a handful of poems to submit to journals, which is good. While I was discussing this rejection today, my coworker told me that I need to go look at a record of  night and "refill my love tank".

May we all go forth and read something that refills our love tank.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Seamus Heaney, you are a class act

I haven't had a chance to write about (or process) the passing of one of my favorite poets, Seamus Heaney. He passed away at the end of this August. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I highly recommend Opened Ground. I still find new poems in there, new meanings. Seriously, get you a copy. His poetry is beyond compare. If you're looking for an review of his work, this isn't the place. I just want to talk a little about how much his work means to me.

I was introduced to Seamus Heaney in one of my many classes with Pamela McClure. Dr. Pam found a beautiful Irish band that wrote a song using one of his poems as the lyrics. I can't find it on YouTube, which is a damn shame. If any of you know a link to it, please post the link. I did find several beautiful tribute videos.

I have so many things I want to say, but I don't know how to say them, so I'm going to talk around it for a little while until I hit the meat. There is something about his words that really resonates with me. My wife doesn't care for poetry (not written about her), but she knows who Pamela McClure and Seamus Heaney are because they are our household poets. I always know where their books are.

I reconnected with a dear friend from my high school recently, and she dropped that she got to see Heaney read in Texas and I was/am so jealous. A part of me still thinks I'll get to see him read because the truth is that this hasn't quite sunk in, yet.

I read this when I found out:
Late in the Clinton administration, the President and First Lady hosted a party to celebrate American poetry at the White House. I was standing with a group of poets with the President, and one of us asked if he read poetry. He lit up a little and said that he'd been reading The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney's version of Sophocles, and that it had been important to him in thinking about peace talks in Northern Ireland. A moment I wanted to remember, in memory of Seamus, and a straight-from-the-horse's- mouth (so to speak) demonstration of poetry's place in public life.
-Mark Doty

The news outlets tell me that he left us with a final message: don't be afraid.

Even on his way out the door, a class act. Thank you for all of everything.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reflecting on an amazing poem and a lost friend (or 10)...

I was born and raised in a College town. Transient friendships, friendships with clear or muddy, but always inevitable ends, these friendships have almost always been a part of my life. Learning to cherish and mourn at the same time is a constant.

Anyway, I stumbled across this poem by Joanna Klink (who might be one of my new favorite poets... time to buy some of her books!). She says, "The poem is addressed to a close friend. Several decades into our friendship we become terribly estranged from each other—and I wanted to see if I could reach her in the poem, and I wanted to wish her well." 

If I could dedicate this poem to my long lost best friend, I would. I'm sorry. This poem makes me think of you.

Without further ado...

by Joanna Klink

And I carried to that emptiness
between us the birds
that had been calling out

     all night. I carried an old
     bicycle, a warm meal,
     some time to talk.

I would have brought
them to you sooner
but was afraid your own

     hopelessness would keep you
     crouched there. If you spring up,
     let it not be against me

but like a weed or a
fountain. I grant you
the hard spine of your

     childhood. I grant you
     the frowning arc of this morning.
     If I could I would grant you

a bright throat and even
brighter eyes, this whole hill
of olive trees, its

     calmness of purpose.
     Let me not forget
     ever what I owe you.

I have loved the love
you felt for those gardens
and I would grant you

     the always steadying
     presence of seeds.
     I bring to that trouble

between us a bell that might
blur into air. I bring the woods
and a sense of what lives there.

     Like you, I turn to sunlight for
     answers. Like you, I am
     not sure where it has gone.